Sometimes less is more. For example, Friday night when I tried to simplify. No, we won’t go on a big hike this week. After all, it has been a little crazy with swim lessons and what not. So we went on a paved, easy-peasy nature walk down the river trail. It was just going to be simple and relaxing and my husband was even able to come. But like I alluded too, it was a little more than we originally intended.
“More” as in more distance than anticipated. Google maps says we went about 2 1/2 miles, which isn’t far for many people. But our last few hikes haven’t been nearly as long and plus it was hot and late in the day. We ended up just going to the exact same turn around point as when we went on our Lewis and Clark Expedition back in February. It just seemed a good place to turn around.
“More” as in more time than originally planned because I didn’t actually start out with much of a plan, how far or how long at least. So about half way through my husband says we need to make sure we get to library before it closes… except at that point it meant we had 5 minutes to get there. We obviously didn’t make that one. Sorry, honey.
“More” as in more crying. The problem with going later in the day and longer than anticipated is that the kids wear out sooner than you’d like (well, on hikes, don’t they always? – the little ones at least.) We only saw one other person on the trail the entire time and thank goodness! I always feel bad when my family assaults the ears of innocent bystanders. I promise my children don’t always cry. I am not a horrible mother. And they all actually had a really wonderful time. They are ALWAYS excited to go hiking. But it’s like there is a switch inside their throats that gets turned on anytime they have to walk farther than 50 feet. I should clarify it’s just the 5 and 3 year old. Ok, and the baby. (And he doesn’t even have to walk!) Before we even hit the trail the preschooler was telling me how hiking makes his stomach hurt. And the 5 year old attempted to fake an ankle injury at one point so he could cling to the stroller, hop pathetically, and than cry out in misery as we walked the shaded, paved trail along a little river enjoying the warm breeze and the songs of the birds. I can only assume he was hoping we would cave and pick him up. Kid, you weigh 50 lbs! You’re going to have to start carrying me pretty soon. (I probably even told him that which never actually helps the situation.)
We resorted to taking turns carrying the baby (while he cried because he wanted to walk!), and alternating pushing one child in the stroller, and listening to the third whine and complain about how nothing was fair and it was his turn.
For an entire mile.
Which is long when you are carrying a baby and listening to toddlers whine.
5 year old quote while sipping a cold water bottle being pushed in the stroller at top speed, “This is just fine with me!”
3 year old quote when it wasn’t his turn, “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”
Husband quote, “Ah, family time.”
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, more.
“More” as in more opportunities to learn. I prepped the kids and told them we were going to practice observing little “treasures” out in nature. (See, I’m making progress. Slowly but surely.) And we did! The kids found some cool things they maybe would have just passed by – like rocks and bugs and leaves. We didn’t stop to sketch them or take note of every detail, but we observed and that is a start.
“More” as in more connections made. At one point we passed under a bridge and found a bunch of swallows and their nests. Coincidentally, I had just read “Song of the Swallows” with my crying 5 year old and he was able see in real life the little birds he had heard about just days ago. (This also helped him get over the cruelties of having to actually walk on a nature walk.) And we saw a mallard and drake in the river, too! Just hours previous my 3 year old had been eating “like a duck” and asking all about ducks. Well, now he got to actually see some ducks! (He also miraculously stopped crying and was able to walk at that point – because all the sudden he had to walk like a duck which cannot be done while throwing a tantrum crumpled up on the pavement.)
“More” as in even more little miracles. My oldest had been disappointed at not finding his binoculars before leaving the house. I had told him his chances of seeing a hawk were pretty high at this particular location. But for 2.3 miles of the trip we didn’t see any. Finally, as my husband had most of the kids around the last corner, a red tailed hawk screeched right above my head! He was so close, just gliding on the thermals (or something like that.) At first I wasn’t sure if I was hearing a hawk or my 3 year old screeching around the bend. And I would have taken my camera out but the bird was literally maybe only 20 feet above our heads and screeching at us (the 5 year old and I) so I pretty much just said, “Wow! That is awesome! Look at that hawk!” And then ran away in case we were making the bird angry and he was warning us that he was about to strike! The rest of the family had seen it too, although not at such a close distance, and it was all they could talk about the .2 miles left of the hike. The older kids were so excited! It was just a little tender mercy for my oldest who didn’t even get a single turn riding the stroller and only complained a little about it (Kid! You are almost 9 years old! AHH!)
“More” as in more family memories made. Right after we got in the car – and people stopped fighting about who had to help who put on seat belts and lamenting the fact that we can’t instantaneously refrigerate the car at will – my husband turned to me and said, “That was really nice and relaxing. See? I’ve already deleted the stressful parts from my memory.” And all my kids could talk about was all the really neat things they saw! I guess they saw a marmot, too, but I was busy doing crowd control with my crowd of one farther back on the trail.
In the end I had fun. My husband had fun. The kids had fun. We all were happy. And even though we didn’t get really, really far into the mountains or the woods (we could hear the traffic from the highway for about half of our trip and we walked besides trees and the river and corn fields- pretty much houses were in view almost the entire time) I’m going to say that still counts as our hike for the week. It was nice and (parts of it were) peaceful and (kind of) far away from the hustle and bustle.
And then we got ice cream. Yay!